Trans and plus-size porn stars are sick of being sidelined at awards shows

Venus Lux

Photo via Steph Punktitude/Flickr (CC-BY)

Despite high sales, BBW and transgender porn stars are rarely critically acknowledged.

Porn: Edgy subculture on the frontiers of cultural change or a conservative holdout where the status quo is embodied by cookie-cutter images of beauty?

The adult industry’s oldest and longest-running awards show is coming up in June, but you won’t find plus-size or transgender women on its stage. At the X-Rated Critics Organization’s XRCO Awards, there are no categories for trans or BBW (Big Beautiful Woman) porn. And despite a petition that asks for more inclusive programming, this particular awards show doesn’t seem prepared to change up its roster any time soon.

The petition, which was quickly signed by about 150 adult industry performers and other members of the porn community, was sponsored by porn star Venus Lux, who wrote:

Embodying unity in this forever growing community is what progresses us as a whole. Our role within this industry as performers is to provide entertainment, positivity, and education to break typecasts and stigmas in which we require effort from all facets of adult entertainment industry.

XRCO is one of the oldest award ceremonies—going on 32 years—in the adult industry yet it is one of the last award ceremonies to give recognition to transgender, gay, and BBW performers. 

Lux is a transgender woman, and one of porn’s most popular rising stars across all genders. She runs her own production company—still a rarity in a male-dominated industry where massive studios rule—and published a book (Venus Lux Diaries) based on a column she wrote for the Adult Industry Press. In October, Lux created TransGlobal Magazine, which is dedicated to transgender news apart from the adult industry. 

Lux has also been recognized by her peers, recently sweeping the Transsexual Performer of the Year award categories at porn’s two other major ceremonies; she won the trophy at AVN in 2015 and 2016, and at XBIZ in 2014 and 2015. But at the XRCO Awards, it’s as if the entire trans market does not exist.

Winning Avn Perforner of the year 2x in a row :) #honored #accomplished

A photo posted by Venus Lux (@venuslux) on


“The trans porn market shares the same demographic of the straight industry,” Lux told the Daily Dot, pointing out that most fans of transgender women in porn—typically categorized as “transsexual,” “TS,” or “shemale”—are men who identify as heterosexual.

According to many industry insiders, trans porn is consistently one of the industry’s top-selling genres. Adam Grayson, vice president of powerhouse porn studio Evil Angel, told the International Business Times last July that trans porn “hands down, without a question” draws the most revenue per product of any of the company’s other genres—so much that Evil Angel tends to price its TS videos higher because of customer demand. 

While solid statistics on category searches are hard to come by—Pornhub Insights compiles them, but only for their own websites—the industry insiders interviewed for this story all insisted that “transsexual” or “shemale” porn was among the top five genres, alongside popular searches like "MILF" and "lesbian."

But the revenue and popularity of trans women in porn isn’t reflected within the business itself—at least not when it comes to public events like conventions and awards shows.

“The more trans performers there are at the awards shows, the more dialogue we can have to educate people on our market and even on what a transsexual is," Lux says.

“There’s so much transphobia and so much confusion over where transsexual porn fits in,” said Lux. “The more trans performers there are at the awards shows, the more dialogue we can have to educate people on our market and even on what a transsexual is.”

Trans women weren’t generally represented at adult industry awards shows until the past few years, when frustrated performers met with the people that run shows like the AVN Awards (often called the Oscars of porn) and demanded inclusion. Awards categories are now established at all of the major shows besides XRCO, but full inclusion is still a gradual goal. While Lux won the AVN trophy for Transsexual Performer of the Year twice in a row, she said her acceptance speech was the only one cut from the event’s annual broadcast on Showtime.

Lux has experienced a similar kind of sidelining at conventions like the Adult Entertainment Expo. Typically, porn stars flock to conventions for the chance to meet fans and bring in a sizable chunk of income through merchandise sales and photos. But as the Daily Dot discovered by accompanying Lux to last year’s AEE, trans performers aren't welcome at most company booths—Lux usually pays thousands of dollars to book her own booth and invites other TS stars to join her.

She’s not alone. There’s another group of porn stars that struggle to see themselves represented at conventions and awards shows despite their increasing popularity and revenue: plus-size women.

Porn star Karla Lane told the Daily Dot that even though the BBW genre is among the top 20 most-searched online, she also has to rent her own booths at shows and invite other BBW performers to join her. And in terms of awards shows, plus-size porn stars have yet to see even the level of inclusion currently offered to trans women.

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“Getting an award onstage is still an issue. Typically most of the awards for plus-size girls are off stage, done before or after the show,” Lane told the Daily Dot. 

Lane said she felt let down by the fact that her 2016 win for AVN’s BBW Performer of the Year didn’t include an actual trophy or any stage time. At the annual show, BBW is one of several category awards—along with MILF, BDSM, and most of the transsexual awards—that is not presented during the ceremony.

“I didn’t even get to take a photo with the trophy in my dress,” Lane told the Daily Dot. “I understand about the stage time and everything, that you have to put some time into it before they let you walk and give a speech. But I didn’t even get to see my trophy.” 

Lane had been nominated for roughly 20 awards across a variety of shows during her 11-year career, but this year’s AVN title was the first time she’d actually won. It’s only the third year that BBWs have been included—Lane’s close friend April Flores won the first two years.

“The more awards you have, the more opportunities,” said Lane. “For my fellow models, I’ve seen a big difference after they win.”

Flores echoed the sentiment while applauding AVN for being "progressive" enough to expand its awards categories.

"It's a wonderful feeling to have your hard work and dedication acknowledged by an industry and people you respect," Flores told the Daily Dot.

Lux first felt frustration about the XRCO Awards when the association’s current co-chairmen, “Dirty Bob” Krotts and Dick Freeman, announced that the 2016 ceremony would include two new categories: Best Lesbian Performer and All in the Family—an award for faux-incest-themed porn scenes. But when XRCO left out trans and BBW performance categories yet again, that's when a petition was made by a fan who asked Lux to sponsor it.

Other voices in the porn world have chimed in on social media to show support for trans and BBW categories—including some of the writers and editors who vote for the awards.

The Daily Dot reached out to Krotts, but he declined to comment on record, other than to say he has seen the petition and that Lux has not reached out to him directly.

It seems inevitable that porn will change along with society as a whole, as transgender celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner draw record-breaking television contracts and plus-size fashion models like Ashley Graham redefine sexy on the covers of Sports Illustrated and Maxim.

Lane said she’s already seen the impact of the plus-size movement in one surprising way: More and more of her fans are women.

“There’s a lot of women reaching out to me now,” said Lane. "Plus-size women are finding themselves wherever they can, and a lot of my female fans will say, ‘I like seeing you in videos because you look like me.’ They want to see someone [in porn] who moves like them, who wears clothing they can wear.”

Female fans might just be porn's biggest secret, in fact. A Marie Claire survey of over 3,000 woman last October found that 1 in 3 women watches porn online regularly. That number was criticized by sexpert authors who suggested that the amount of women consuming porn is likely much higher, because women tend to underreport their sexual appetites due to stigma.

And as the Daily Dot discovered in 2015, straight women prefer watching lesbian porn more than any other category—meaning the thing women want most is to see other women getting off. And as more women consume porn, they want to see images of women that reflect themselves—including transgender and plus-size performers.

"If certain companies and/or award shows retain an antiquated mindset, it will only reflect poorly on them," said Flores. "You cannot successfully maintain an analog attitude in a digital world."

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